The Skin-Nourishing Properties of Coconut

coconut[Image: Getty Images]The tropical gem known as the coconut has been serving humans since prehistoric times.

Over the centuries, people have incorporated coconut’s meat, water, milk and oil into nearly every aspect of life, including skin care. It seems that beverages like coconut water and milk are generating a lot of buzz these days, but beauty products featuring the fruit are becoming just as popular, thanks to its ability to soften, nourish and moisturize even the driest complexions. It’s those skin-saving properties combined with an exotic, sweet scent that make clients feel like they’re on a permanent vacation.

Why it’s a skincare all-star: Coconut—in particular its oil—has long been touted for its hydrating properties. Containing healthy fats that help lock in moisture, the substance is ideal for treating dry, parched skin. “Coconut oil can help improve a range of conditions, from dryness and dehydration to acne, inflammation and sensitivity,” says Angela Eriksen-Stanley, director of education for Phytomer Group Brands. “The hype about coconut is legitimate—it’s a universal ingredient.”

These days, coconut oils and extracts are incorporated into virtually every aspect of beauty: leave-in hair products, facial cleansers, body lotions and more. “Coconut oil has a low molecular weight that allows it to bind easily to proteins and penetrate the skin or hair on a deeper level,” says Jaklin Idris, national director of education for Decléor. Coconut’s high vitamin and nutrient content also makes it a major player in the antiaging arena, adds Idris. “Coconut oil is packed with antioxidants that can slow down premature signs of aging,” she explains.

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In the treatment room: Caroline Wilmot, spa and wellness director at the Ocean Spa at the Playa Largo Resort in Key Largo, Florida, says coconut is an ideal ingredient for the spa’s signature services because it ties in perfectly with the property’s picturesque beachfront location. “In creating our spa menu, we wanted to ensure we were using tropical ingredients, like coconut, to better deliver a true island experience,” Wilmot says. The Sea Mud Manicure and Pedicure (90 min./$150) is popular thanks to a cleansing coconut powder scrub and soothing coconut oil massage. “The quality of the ingredients coupled with their nourishing benefits take the basic manicure and pedicure experience to the next level, which is why guests love this service so much,” she adds.

The same sentiment rang true for the Spa at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, California, when staff debuted the Facial Ritual (50-80 min./$135- $190), which features Éminence’s Coconut Cream Masque. “This was one of our estheticians’ favorite products, so we were right when we guessed that our customers would love it just as much,” says spa supervisor Kirstin Kevalaitis. “The summer heat can be brutal here, and the coconut line was so helpful in restoring hydration and sealing in moisture. Our guests were able to see the instantaneous effects right after the treatment.” The limited-edition special includes a thorough cleansing using the Éminence Coconut Milk Cleanser, followed by the coconutinfused mask. The treatment was initially offered as a seasonal addition to the spa’s rotating menu, but has proven such a hit with clients and staff that they plan on featuring it again this year.

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“One out-of-town guest commented that her skin wasn’t used to our climate; after her service she felt her complexion was supple and revitalized,” recalls Kevalaitis. “Moments like these really speak volumes as to how beneficial coconut oil can be when used in a spa treatment.”

Quick Facts

  • More than 20 billion coconuts are grown and harvested worldwide each year.
  • Sri Lanka, the Philippines and India are the three biggest coconut-producing countries.
  • Coconut water is a workable short-term substitute for human blood plasma and was used for emergency transfusions during World War II.
  • One theory behind coconut’s name dates back to the 16th century. It’s believed that Portuguese sailors chose “Coco” (which means “laughing face” or “grimace” in Portuguese) because the three holes on the coconut looked like a human face. The English word “nut” was added later.
  • Some people have found coconut oil to be an effective mosquito repellent.
  • Considered a symbol of prosperity and luck, coconut is an essential ritual element in Hindu tradition. It’s often decorated and off ered during worship to the religion’s gods or goddesses.

Coconut Products

  • bon-vital-coconut
    Bon Vital’ Massage Creme in Coconut
–by Angela Melero

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